I am really good in times of crisis. Not that I am asking for one (kay, God, got that?) but I have observed that I wind up being resourceful, focused and disciplined when called upon if things get suddenly very bad, very fast. When my dad had a heart attack. When, at two separate times my children had to be hospitalized. When hubby lost his job. I think it is something about the immediacy, the necessity of a plan, the life-and-death sort of reality that is more concrete than abstract, if that makes sense. There is one goal: to get through this. Often there is one course of action – to just keep buggering on. And I feel adept at that.
Where my resolve starts to falter and my focus and motivation leaves me is when the routine of daily life becomes so repetitive – so predictable – that each day seems more dull and difficult to find joy in than the last. I don’t believe this is a problem unique to stay-at-home moms. I know Hubby feels the same way about going to work, as I am sure most people do when the day-in-day-out tends to more repetitive than stimulating.
Don’t get me wrong: I love my life. I love my family. I feel blessed and grateful that we live in such a safe and healthy environment where my children have enough to eat and the opportunity to go to school and extracurricular activities. I have a roof over my head and don’t need to worry about where the next paycheck is coming from. I certainly don’t take any of that for granted.
But lately, I have been feeling….I don’t know….Blah. Part of it is probably the weather. Part of it might be due to the fact that I pick up 10 million toys that are littered around the house about 15 times a day and it gets old. I get tired of the routine of yelling at the kids to get their lesson stuff together and get into the car (a process that takes, at best, 30 minutes) and then arriving at said lesson with one of them missing their shoes. I get bored to death with having to cook dinner every night (fancy cuisine-preparing genius I am not) and change two sets of diapers on a regular basis, with an almost 2-year-old and almost 4-year-old (yes, he is resolutely not interested in using the potty!) fighting me every step of the way. I groan at the end of the day when I see the dishes piled up still on the table (Hubby doesn’t get the memo that yes, on nights when I am running with Junior to karate, the dinner chores still need to be done).
On Monday, the younger two were taking turns whining and fighting with each other, while simultaneously following me around trying to bite me out of love (I guess?) and I couldn’t take it anymore. I turned on Paw Patrol and locked myself in my office and researched lodging options for Europe. For two hours. It was as though after all the figurative trudging through the muck and mire of daily life I just needed a mind vacation. The mind vacation of fantasizing about a real vacation. A real vacation that I keep struggling with feeling OK about taking. Needless to say, I feel like if I didn’t have that to look forward to, life would feel very bleak indeed.
Which leads me to try to come up with some other ways I can Fight the Blahs. I can’t always be planning a trip. (Or maybe I can, but I still need some other outlets!)
Learn Something New
I admit, I have a problem with this one. I think it is because I have so many interests, yet once I start something, I lose motivation pretty quickly. Especially if I get bogged down if I feel it is difficult or tedious. I took up knitting a few winters ago because several friends were learning how to knit. They all seemed to excel at it (rather quickly, silly overachievers!) and I was still struggling with how to count stitches while they were already on patterns. They were knitting socks with circular needles while I only managed a lopsided pot holder. So I guess the goal for me is to learn something new that might yield positive results right away and that I can learn at my own pace, which might be really slow.
Set a Goal
This ties in with Learn Something New. It occurred to me that I haven’t actually set a goal in my life for a looooooong time. And I am talking something realistic, not just “be the perfect wife and mother with zero stress and a supermodel body.” Something attainable yet challenging. Something to look forward to, not something to be viewed as an obligation.
A lot of my day is set in stone, with the times and days of lessons being set. But if I look at some pockets of time, I realize that I can vary what I do, and when. The easiest thing to do is just to drive a different way to and from my destination. I could drive by the river instead of through town. I could leave a little earlier and take the scenic route. Sometimes just a change of scenery can break you out of the Blahs.
Part of my frustration with my daily routines is that I don’t feel good. I mean, I don’t really feel good about myself. Going through daily life in yoga pants and a t-shirt might be comfortable, but it was not giving me the boost of confidence I think that would make my interactions with people more pleasant. I read a blog posting a while back saying that stay-at-home moms should “dress for success” just like their working-mom counterparts. Which is somewhat hard for me to stomach, when I spend the majority of my day cleaning up smushed floorbanana and poopy diapers and trying to avoid being used as human kleenex. But maybe if I treat myself more “professionally”, my family might see me as less of a doormat and more of a woman worthy to be respected. And that might make me respect myself more, too. I am not talking dresses and heels or anything here; I am just thinking taking a little more time choosing what I wear and perhaps throwing on that string of pearls might be a positive boost for my day.
One of my favorite books is Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. She and her sister were very religious and were sent to a concentration camp during WWII for hiding Jews. While Corrie found it hard to stomach the conditions they were living in, her sister reminded her of St. Paul’s admonition to “give thanks in all things”- even horrible things, like life in a concentration camp. Corrie tells her sister, “I see what you’re saying, but how are we supposed to be grateful for the fleas and the lice that are infesting this cell block?” Her sister didn’t have a good answer. Earlier, Corrie related a story of how she and her sister smuggled a Bible into the camp, somewhat miraculously. With the Bible, they were able to encourage fellow prisoners to keep everyone’s spirits up. Later on, they thought it was incredible that the Nazis had never come into the cell block to confiscate the Bible (and, most likely, enact a brutal punishment on the women for smuggling it in). In fact, they never entered that cell block at all. The reason? The lice and fleas that Corrie was reluctant to give thanks for. Their presence had been the reason God’s Word could still be heard in the most unlikely of places.
This story reminds me that, even in the doldrums of daily routine, there is plenty to be thankful for!
Deepen Spiritual Life
I find everything is easier to deal with when I am focused on the most important routine of all: spending time with God each day. Of course most of the time I don’t make this a priority. There is always something “more important” to do. Housework, for example! Chasing the kids! It is hard to find time with these more pressing, immediate, concerns. I think God gets that. So I wait around for a quiet moment and try to get in a bit of Bible reading. I find that sometimes I won’t even be thinking about it, but will feel a little nudge as though God is telling me, “Spend a little time with Me right now.” And I try to listen. I feel that by making Him a priority, I can more easily get the rest of my priorities in order.
And perhaps that is why “The Blahs” occur anyhow – they are a call to take stock of life and figure out what is really important, what is really necessary, and what really brings joy to one’s life.
I’d love to hear some other suggestions for how to Fight the Blahs!